THRIVHER INTERVIEW: CHRISTINA HEMBO

Updated: May 21, 2018


Thrivher Achievements:

Created the company Christina Jewelry & Watches and formerly owned the Danish cycling team Christina Watches.


Prizes awarded from the Danish 'IVÆKST' awards:

  • 2008 - Female Entrepreneur of the Year

  • 2009 - Growth Adventure of the Year

  • 2010 - Female business Owner of the Year



Current professional job title:

Owner and designer of Christina Jewelry & Watches.



Thrivher dive:

  • Can't start the day without: Hugs from my children and husband and my coffee.

  • Most efficient time of day: From when I wake up until I go to bed, I love my work!

  • Most effective productivity tool: My Wacom drawing board.

  • Best read is Napoleon Hill´s 17 points of Success, if you live your life by these points – you will have a very successful life, no matter who you are.

  • Non-negotiable: My family and friends.

  • TOP music track that sets my heart on fire: “California dreaming” and “It's Raining Men”!

  • Mindfulness habit: Running, I love running, not long distance, only 5 km, but these 5 km gives me so much energy, fresh air and meditation.

  • Most afraid of: Darkness in everything, in nature and in people.



THRIVHER MOVES:


What was your first job before getting on your career path?

My first job was at a bakery then when I turned 18 I got a job at a gas station. That was actually a really nice job because I was left alone - I felt that I was in charge of this big gas station and everybody who came and visited.


What early steps did you take to get you on your career path?

After I took a three-year degree at a business school in Denmark, I went on a trip around the world for 6 months with a friend. That was really great and was just what I needed after intense study. When I came home, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, and I still wanted to travel. So I went to Munich, where I got a job in a store. I worked there for one year just to get my thoughts together, and to ask myself what it is that I really want with my life and where I could see myself.


I worked there for one year just to get my thoughts together, and to ask myself what it is that I really want with my life and where I could see myself.

I then went back to Denmark and did a year in a graphic design course and I really, really loved it. I decided I had a goal - to complete a graphic design degree, and I wanted to travel some more, so I decided on England. London seemed too big for me at the time so I moved to Southampton for the final two years of the course. From there, my dream was (of course) to find some kind of design job. I was quite sure that I wanted to go in a creative direction, not necessarily graphic design, but that was a good start, and for me, it was important to have a good education.


How did you go from studying to owning a successful jewelry company?

I went to visit London for 3 days with my friends from Denmark. We were walking along the street in the middle of the day, and we were talking in Danish of course. Suddenly there was a guy who stopped us, because he was also Danish, "Oh, hello! we're from Denmark also", that was actually Claus (my now husband) and his friends who we bumped into. It was funny to meet some Danish guys in London, so we went into a pub that was called ‘Spice of Life’, and that was the start of my relationship with Claus and what later led us to create the company ‘Christina Jewelry & Watches’. After Southampton, I moved in with Claus and got a place at the University of the Arts in London where I took my master's degree in design. While I was waiting for the term to start I took more business courses because I knew that I wanted to have my own business somehow, and so I felt it was important for me to do some more business studies.


After we finished studying, Claus and I both wanted to start our own business. Since we both had passion for watches, we decided I could be the designer of the watches, and in 2002, we began. In 2004 we had the first women's collection, 12 designs, a small collection. At that time we were still living in this student flat for free (as Claus was a warden there), so that was a big financial help.


We hired our first employee, a salesperson from Denmark, we thought Denmark was a good test market because it's a small and we know it very well. So, our salesperson came to London for five weeks to learn everything about our ideas, what it is we wanted to do and understand all the details around the products. I think in those five weeks, we entered 43 shops with the watches.


The main concept behind our company was (and still is) to make high quality products with genuine gemstones, always genuine materials and at really good price, because you cannot get that anywhere. If you need to buy a high-quality product (jewelry or a watch) with genuine gemstones, the prices are really, really high. So we believed we had a niche product, we call it "affordable luxury".


In the beginning, what were your biggest challenges you came up against?

In the beginning it was to find the right gemstones. Suppliers said we can deliver what you want, which was high quality diamonds, but then when we tested them it was a totally different quality, we were getting cheated. In the end, we found this person who we could really rely on and we knew that when he said that it's the right quality, it was the right quality. But even today we always test our gemstones to ensure they are genuine.


Suppliers said we can deliver what you want, which was high quality diamonds, but then when we tested them it was a totally different quality, we were getting cheated.

The next step was to find the right customers/stores who could sell this, who thought this was a great concept. I wouldn't say it's easy because nothing is easy, but they really liked our idea of having high quality at an attractive price.


Were you worried about the risks of starting a new company?

Well, we were, but we were young (or, younger) then. We hadn’t had our children and we didn't have a house or a car, we just really wanted to do this project. We weren’t really thinking too much about risks, just more, ‘this is really fun and we really want to do this so let's go’, and then we just went.


We weren’t really thinking too much about risks, just more, ‘this is really fun and we really want to do this so let's go’, and then we just went.

Maybe we were - I wouldn't say naive, but we weren’t thinking too much about the risks because we didn't have time to think about the risks. We were thinking about how to do this and how to make this great.


It's always a risk to start your own thing because you never know how it will turn out, but that’s also the fun part. It's fun to see it evolve, we really believed in our product because we thought was a great idea, and we believed this would work. If you have a dream, that you truly believe you can do, then you can do it. You’ve just got to work hard enough for it.


If you have a dream, that you truly believe you can do, then you can do it. You’ve just got to work hard enough for it.

What would you do differently?

When you enter a new market, you have to make sure it’s going in the right direction, and if it's not, you need to stop it and close it down before you use too much money. We learned that with a few markets that we probably should've have stopped earlier because we spent too much money and we could see that it was not going how we envisaged. So, what we learned is that having the right people represent you in the different countries is so important to give it the best chance of success, but finding these people has been the most difficult thing for us. To launch in a new market/country, you really need to have the passion, if you only have the half passion, then it will never be a success. It’s really difficult to find the right people who have this feeling as much as you do.


What has been your defining moments in your career/life so far?

For this business, my first defining moment in life was on the 7th of November 2001 when I met Claus, because without Claus I probably would not have this company, and nor would he. We would be somewhere else in the world. Finding the right husband and having children and doing what I really was hoping for a business was my dream come true.

The other defining moment in life was testing the product. We had to go out and sell it, find out if it was working, and understand if our product was liked. The jewelry stores liked it but then of course we needed it to sell out of the stores. When it did it was a really fantastic feeling - we felt like we could do anything now. We got a lot of energy and strength when we saw it going the right way.


How do you keep your business on track?

It's important to set goals in your life and try to follow them, they will probably change, but I think it's important you have something to work for, and know which direction you probably will go.


It’s really important to be good to yourself. You can just go out there and work all the time, but you also need to think that you have a family, you have some friends, and you need to do some sports. You need to take good care of yourself because if you are not happy and taking good care of yourself, then you cannot work 100%.


It's important to set goals in your life and try to follow them, they will probably change, but I think it's important you have something to work for, and know which direction you probably will go.

The best ‘pinch me now’ moment in your career life achievements and what that felt like

I've never been on TV or anything but I was asked to appear on ‘Dancing with the Stars’. I didn't know if I could do the show because I didn't know if I could dance and I kept thinking, ‘what if they kick me out of the program after the first show that will be so embarrassing’. But then I thought, I will say yes and should take the positive mentality, then the nerves will be OK.

I actually managed to get to third place, then suddenly, people got to know who Christina was behind the brand, the designer. That was really, really good for the brand and from that, I did a lot more shows including Master Chef.


The other great moments were from the awards I've won such as in 2008




Thriving and Kicking:


What’s in the future for you and ‘Christina Jewelry & Watches’?

We want to grow bigger, and do even more. Still, we want to enjoy life because life is not all about work. Of course, our work is different compared to if you are employed because it is our own company, it's our life, it's our hobby, a part of our everyday life. I do sometimes work at home if I have to be really focused on the designs, but I prefer to go to the office because I really like to be in the scene.


Who is your main supporter in life?

Claus is the one who's pushed me, for example, when they asked me to do Dancing with the Stars, I said "No, no, no, I cannot do that." But then he was telling me, "Yes, of course, you can do it, you'll do great". So without him, I don't know where I would be in my life. I'm sure that he's definitely pushed me to do things that I was scared of, and from that I have learned that I shouldn't be so scared, because it was actually fun, and I could do it.


I have learned that I shouldn't be so scared, because it was actually fun, and I could do it.

What skill are you still trying to master?

I’m doing a lot of studies, just for myself, to learn more about human beings and how the brain works - understanding how we can control our thoughts much better just by thinking about them.


Overall I believe we're learning our whole life. Even when we turn 90, we're still learning.


What is the main personality trait that you think has contributed to all your achievements?

Positive thinking - a “we can do it” attitude and the belief in what we are doing. I am quite disciplined about my life and who I am because I know that you only have one life and I want to have had a good life and when I leave this world, I want to look back and think, ‘I did what I really wanted to do and I'm happy’. So for me, it's so important to also explore the world, go out, travel, and meet new people, learn new things. To do what you really want to do while you are here.


I want to look back and think, ‘I did what I really wanted to do and I'm happy’

What advice would you share to women starting out their careers that you wish you had known in the beginning?

My biggest advice for young people, is to go and enjoy life and to get a good education. It might not be the right education, but you will still learn a lot of things, you will meet new people, and suddenly you will find a direction in life that you think is interesting and then, go for it. Also, always try to kill down the negative thinking and if there's something negative, then try to find the positive in the negative.


It might not be the right education, but you will still learn a lot of things, you will meet new people, and suddenly you will find a direction in life that you think is interesting and then, go for it.

For the women reading who have a career, but are striving for something more, what would be your career advice for them?

Go for it. If there's something you know you want, a goal you want to achieve, go for it, because you will definitely get there somehow. Maybe not right away, maybe it takes some years, but if you have a goal and you want to go for it, then you should definitely try and do it.


If you believe in it, you can do it.


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